Pictures of heroism

Book chronicles firefighting in Hagerstown

Book chronicles firefighting in Hagerstown

July 26, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown Fire Department Capt. Justin T. Mayhue is hoping the latest book in Arcadia Publishing's "Images in America" series generates a lot of heat locally.

Mayhue, who authored and compiled the just-released "Firefighting in Hagerstown," said the book pays homage to all those who have provided services during the past two centuries.

"Firefighting in Hagerstown" was officially released last week and will be sold in several area bookstores within weeks, Mayhue said Sunday at the First Hagerstown Hose Co., where he was based for 13 years.


Mayhue said it is believed to be the first comprehensive history of local firefighting to be released.

"That's the main reason I did it, because it hasn't been done," Mayhue said. "I saw it as a great opportunity to share with people the history of the department."

The 128-page book is a pictorial history that includes shots of some of the people, equipment and incidents that shaped the 213-year history of firefighting in the city. Included in the more than 200 photos are pictures of every motorized piece of firefighting apparatus used by the department and images of notable fires such as the October 1914 blaze at the Baldwin Hotel and the five-alarm January 1975 inferno at the Style-Rite Furniture store.

Mayhue said his favorite photos are the rare ones few have seen, such as those depicting long-obsolete equipment from the early 1800s, as well as the only known photo of the Western Enterprise Fire Co.'s old headquarters on West Franklin Street.

Photos of several hundred firefighters also are featured prominently throughout the book.

Mayhue said he believed it was crucial to get as many firefighters - past and present - into the book because of the effort they gave and sacrifices they made in the line of duty.

Mayhue said some older members of the department believe that, though there were many memories from their firefighting days, they had few tangible things to show for it. He said some felt almost forgotten as time went on.

"My thing was to change that because they're not forgotten," he said. "And, as long as this book's around, they won't be forgotten."

Mayhue said Arcadia representatives told him in January they were interested in the book because it was pitched soon after the release and success of a similar one chronicling firefighting efforts in Raleigh, N.C.

Mayhue said he worked on the book steadily for about four months, completing it in April, after it was OK'd by the publisher. Admittedly, he had a head start.

"I've had ideas in my head on this for a while," Mayhue said.

The greatest resource he had was William Dieterich, father of current Hagerstown Battalion Chief Kyd Dieterich, Mayhue said. Dieterich provided a large amount of historical information for captions of photos he and others submitted.

"Bill (Dieterich) was just a blessing to have to this book," he said. "I don't know what I would have done without him."

Mayhue said he also had a lot of additional help in the form of contributions from representatives from the stations that make up the city's fire department, the Washington County Free Library, the Washington County Historical Society, The Herald-Mail Co. and the collections of several other firefighters, among others. Even Mayhue's 11-year-old son Phillip contributed a photo for the collection.

Mayhue said it was difficult to choose which of the photos to include. He said he will try to release a second volume through Arcadia if the first edition of "Firefighting in Hagerstown" does well.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg of our history, but it's a start," Mayhue said.

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